There were heaps of interesting insights to come out of the Overwatch Archive panel at Blizzcon 2017 (I'll post later today with another), but one revelation that sticks out is that before deciding to make a class-based shooter the Overwatch development team started working on a concept for an MMO called Crossworlds, which had up to 50 classes and was set "at the crossroads of the universe".
Kaplan and his team were given six weeks to come up with a game concept after the MMO Titan, which they were working on, was scrapped. They started exploring a new IP—an MMO that Kaplan referred to during the panel as Crossworlds. "Basically, the idea was that there was a remote outpost planet in the universe [that] was the crossroads of the universe and all different alien races would end up on the same planet.
"The game that we were talking about making was an MMO and it was going to be class-based. We were exploring between six and nine classes for the game," he said. The picture at the top of this article is some of the concept art. Pretty, right?
Blizzard class designer Geoff Goodman (who now designs Overwatch's heroes) encouraged the team to up the number of classes to 50, "each [of which] is very focused and has a certain set of abilities and they could all be wildly different from one another".
Kaplan thought that a 50-class MMO would be impossible, but the vision stuck with him, and he hastily stitched together a presentation that drew inspiration from some of the art for Titan. The image below is what he came up with, and the similarities between these characters and what would come to be the Overwatch lineup are striking. Reaper, a 'Guardian' and a 'Jumper' are all there—even some of the names of abilities that Kaplan envisaged are identical to what ended up in the shooter.
Crossworlds wasn't the only idea bandied around before the team settled on Overwatch, though: they also considered a tie-in to StarCraft that focused on the individuals in that universe. Below is some concept art (Kaplan didn't say what sort of game it was going to be), and you'll notice a striking resemblance to a certain cowboy.
If you've bought a virtual ticket to Blizzcon you can watch the presentation here. The Crossworlds chat starts about 04:40.